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Italy Hosts Libyan Rebels in Diplomacy Talks

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini , right, and vice-chairman of the Executive Board of the Libyan National Transitional Congress Ali al-Issawi talk to the media during a press conference in Rome, July 22, 2011
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini , right, and vice-chairman of the Executive Board of the Libyan National Transitional Congress Ali al-Issawi talk to the media during a press conference in Rome, July 22, 2011
Sabina Castelfranco

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini held talks in Rome Friday with the Vice-President of the Transitional National Council of Benghazi, Ali al-Issawi. Both made clear there is no role for Moammar Gadhafi in the future of Libya.

"Now we are preparing in the hands of Mr. Khatib to present to both sides Tripoli and Benghazi, a political offer including a road map, including a cease-fire, including a very clear and firm point: Gadhafi should relinquish the power," said Frattini.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, a Jordanian senator, is seeking a political solution to the conflict that erupted in February between Gadhafi's forces and rebels based in the east. He has visited both sides several times.   

Gadhafi said in a speech in Libya on Thursday that he would not speak to the rebels until the "day of judgement."

Frattini and al-Issawi on Friday discussed the fighting on the ground in Libya. Frattini said there are people in Tripoli ready to join the opposition and are getting organized.

Al-Issawi told reporters later that a NATO airstrike on Thursday targeted a room in Tripoli where leaders of Gadhafi's inner circle was meeting. He claimed one top aide was seriously wounded.

Al-Issawi said rebels continue to advance in their fight against Gadhafi.

"The Libyans [rebels] are moving and gaining spaces on the ground, in the Brega area and also from the western mountains towards Tripoli," Al-Issawi said.

Al-Issawi added that whether Gadhafi stays in Libya or not will be decided after he gives up power. He said that with the existence of an international arrest warrant, the opposition and international community still want to see him brought before the international criminal court.

For its part, Italy reiterated its full backing of the Transitional National Council and its efforts to move towards a democratic Libya.  

"Italy will continue to help our Libyan friends to defend civilians, through our military pressure, though our civilian cooperation, through our economic support," said Frattini.

Frattini said it's a matter of days, $500 million in cash and in fuel will be transferred by Italy to the Libyans in Benghazi for humanitarian needs and the daily lives of the population, in agreement with United Nations resolutions.

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